Apr 20, 2011

American Le Mans Series Long Beach Recap


The American Le Mans trip to Long Beach ended under caution, but that did not detract from the overall race itself. In fact, the final yellow was almost a fitting testament to just how scrappy things were on the tight street circuit. Specifically the fierce battle that raged in GT, which featured a lot of door to door and bumper to bumper racing from all of the big players in that category. Ideally you want to see them finish the fight under the proper conditions, but in this case it’s hard to complain as the action up until that point was just that good.

The “close combat” was on from the start, with things becoming extremely dicey when Tommy Milner in the No. 3 Corvette went to grab the apex at the fountain, but accidentally caught the rear-end of Auberlen in the process, causing the No. 55 BMW to spin.

With the tight confines of that section Auberlen was not able to get pointed in the right direction until the field came back around. Not only putting him a lap down, but when he finally was able to get going he blocked his teammate and GT leader Joey Hand, allowing Oliver Gavin in the No. 3 Corvette a clear pass and first position.

“I had a very eventful stint with lots of bumping and banging and cars spinning in strange places,” Gavin said. “The start was pretty standard, everyone got a bit strung out, and then the LMPC cars were getting in the way. It all started when the BMW behind me disappeared. On the next lap he was turned around at the fountain turn! The race leader went the wrong way, I went the right way, and I got myself into the lead.”

With an hour and 33 minutes left to race the Corvette was in the lead, followed by the Flying Lizard Porsche driven by Patrick Long, while the pole-sitter BMW/Joey Hand was bumped back to third due to his teammate’s error.

However, Gavin’s lead was short lived as Joey Hand was able to make a clean pass, regaining the lead, when the Corvette became preoccupied with GTC traffic and a hard-pressing Patrick Long. This skirmish knocked Gavin back to third and placed Long in prime position to chase down the BMW.

From that point forward the battle for first, between RLL BMW and the Flying Lizard Porsche was nothing short of spectacular. The Porsche having a slight advantage coming out of tight corners made for side-by-side racing down the straight, with Joey Hand out-breaking Patrick Long in order to defend his lead on multiple occasions.

After fighting hard to over-take Hand the Flying Lizard and Patrick Long would soon be forced to retire after colliding into one of the barriers. Most likely a result of pushing too hard out of frustration stemming from Scott Sharp aggressively defending despite being a lap down.

Thus, the BMW reign continues as Hand and Dirk Müller went relatively uncontested the rest of the way, bringing home their second win in two races. While the Gavin/Magnussen duo finished second, in a race that’s sure to add more fire to an already hot BMW/Chevrolet rivaly. Claiming the final podium spot was Melo/Vilander, who deserves a lot of credit after their Ferrari F458 Italia started at the back of field due to an incident in qualifying.

The ALMS series will break until July, as teams prep for the 24 hours of Le Mans. You can catch archival footage of Long Beach at ESPN3.com

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